Jesse Godfrey Moritz Bullowa was born in New York City on 19 October 1879, the son of Moritz and Mary (Grunhut) Bullowa, and died 9 November 1943. He married Sadie Nones on 24 September 1907, and they had five children: Margaret, James, Elizabeth, Jean and Anne. In his listing in Who Was Who in America (Vol 2, 1943-1950 p 90), he described himself as Jewish, a Democrat and a Mason, living at 400 East 58th Street, Manhattan, New York City.
In 1899, Bullowa graduated with high honors (Phi Beta Kappa) from the College of the City of New York, when the institution was the path to success for many brilliant, aspiring, young men in this largely immigrant city. Bullowa went on to study medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now Columbia University Medical School) and received his MD degree in 1903 with honors (Alpha Omega Alpha honorary society), as well as a graduation prize. There is a group photograph (dated December 1903) in the New York University Medical Archives showing Bullowa with dark hair beginning to recede, clean starched collar, bow tie, four buttoned jacket, short stature, solid build, intense eyes looking head on, clean shaven, and serious. He is the only person in this picture of six men who does not have a moustache, and he looks like a responsible new physician standing behind his seated seniors and bound for a solid professional future. He went on to achieve this through his scholarship, teaching and patient care, gaining respect from his peers, students and patients (Alexander 1944).
Bullowa’s contributions to research during the 1920s included controlled trials of serum treatment of pneumonia. Comparative trials of Huntoon’s antibody solution had been done during the winters of 1920, 1921 and 1922 by Russell Cecil at Bellevue Hospital in New York (Cecil 1928). Later that decade, Bullowa had become a clinical professor of medicine at New York University College of Medicine, specializing in pulmonary medicine, with a primary clinical appointment as head of the pulmonary service at Harlem Hospital (although his name does not appear in a history of the hospital – Maynard 1978). With William Park and Milton Rosenblüth, Bullowa was involved in assessing the effects of refined (Felton) antibacterial sera for treating lobar pneumonia, and a report of their experience was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on 17 November 1928 (Park et al. 1928). A few days earlier, Bullowa had presented a report of their work in the Friday afternoon lecture series of the New York Academy of Medicine, and his paper was published in the Academy’s Bulletin the following year (Bullowa 1929).
Bullowa’s introduction to the paper acknowledges “financial support and personal encouragement” from the philanthropist, Lucius N Littauer (Bullowa subsequently became a board member of the Littauer Foundation), but its most remarkable feature is that it reveals a knowledge and use of statistics which was still unusual among medical researchers at that time. In two papers published the previous year, Bullowa acknowledges help from Dr Louis I Dublin and his staff at the Statistical Bureau of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City (Bullowa 1928a; 1928b). How instrumental was Dublin in the design of Bullowa’s clinical research?
Dublin was born in Lithuania in 1882 and came to America as a child. He received his BA degree from City College of New York in 1901 and his PhD in biology from Columbia University in 1904, thus overlapping Bullowa at both places. As top students from a similar background it seems highly likely that they knew each other then. However Dublin’s autobiography (Dublin 1966) does not mention Bullowa. Dublin’s major public health contributions were based analyses of the health and survival of the people insured by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, where he was vice–president from 1909 to 1952. He was clearly held in high regard, having been elected president both of the American Statistical Association and of the American Public Health Association (Falk 1969). However, an initial review of his papers by one of us (DN) at the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine in 2010 did not uncover any link either to Bullowa or to any involvement he may have had in clinical research more generally.
Bullowa is listed as a member of the department of medicine in the annual year books of the New York University Medical School for 1935, 1936 and 1937 (but not for 1938), and he was also a consulting physician at Riverside Hospital, Willard Parker Hospital, the Municipal Sanatorium at Otisville, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, Norwalk General Hospital, Norwalk Connecticut, and a serologist at Long Beach Hospital. During the 1930s, his research interests included the use of oxygen tents, chest x-rays and sulfa drugs. In 1936, he presented his research at the 2nd International Microbiological Congress in London and was thanked by Lionel F H Whitaker (signature unclear) of the Bland-Sutton Institute of Pathology, Middlesex Hospital, London, for his gifts of pneumococcal sera (letter dated July 30, 1936, NYU Medical Archives 003.B). In 1937, Bullowa published his The management of pneumonias (New York: Oxford University Press), and in 1939, his The Specific Therapy of the Pneumonias. Bullowa was a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, a member of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, and the American Trudeau Society.
During the late 1930s, J Burns Amberson was an Assistant Professor of Medicine and then Clinical Professor in the department of medicine of the New York University Medical School. As Bullowa and Amberson both specialized in pulmonary medicine and appear in the same departmental faculty photograph, one can assume they knew each other. However, neither appears to have felt that their respective contributions to the development of controlled clinical trials had been a remarkable feature in their life’s work (Amberson et al. 1931).
Alexander J (1944). Jesse GM Bullowa (1879-1943) (obituary). Science 99:462-463.
Amberson JB, McMahon BT, Pinner M (1931). A clinical trial of sanocrysin in pulmonary tuberculosis. American Review of Tuberculosis 24:401-435.
Bullowa JGM (1928a). The use of antipneumococcic refined serum in lobar pneumonia: data necessary for a comparison between cases treated with serum and cases not so treated, and the importance of a significant control series of cases. JAMA 90:1354-1358.
Bullowa JGM (1928b). The control. Contribution to a symposium on the use of antipneumococcic refined serum in lobar pneumonia, 15 December 1927. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Sciences 4:339-343.
Bullowa J (1929). The serum treatment and its evolution in lobar pneumonia. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 5:328-362.
Cecil RL (1928). Specific treatment of lobar pneumonia. Arch Int Med 41:295-335.
Dublin LI (1966). After eighty years. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
Falk IS (1969). Louis I. Dublin, November 1, 1882 – March 7, 1969. American Journal of Public Health 59:1083-1085.
Maynard A (1978). Harlem Hospital story: Surgeons to the poor. New York: Appleton Century Crofts.
Park WH, Bullowa JGM, Rosenbluth NM (1928). The treatment of lobar pneumonia and refined specific antibacterial serum. JAMA 91:1503-1508.
Thanks to Coleen Bradley-Saunders, Archivist, Frederick Ehrman Medical Library of New York University, 550 First Ave. New York, NY.